Tuesday, August 28, 2012

George The Snake

     I met George in the classroom, not in his natural habitat.

     In my early years as a teacher (of junior-high math and science, primarily), I shared my classroom with a biology teacher whom I shall call Bob, since that was his name; and Bob introduced me to George.

     George was a beautiful little garden snake of some species unknown to me.  In fact, I couldn't swear that he shouldn't have been named Georgette, because I have never been trained in snake-sexing.  I'm taking Bob's word for it, and I'm not positive that even he, the biology teacher, was trained to know.

     George was about eighteen inches long, at most; of a nice greenish color with a pale head, and, if I recall correctly, four thin pale stripes running down his length.  As far as snakes go, he seemed delicate.  (Can anyone identify the species, on this slight information?)

     He lived in a glass sandbox in the classroom, where he had to be fed from time to time (I think he was a vegetarian; on second thought, I doubt it), and he was taken out of his confinement frequently for play with students and teachers alike.

     We handled him carefully, noticing that snakes -- at least his kind -- are very flexible in a side-to-side bending situation, but not in the up-and-down way.  He seemed to like the attention:  he would loop himself on my forearm for periods of time, and exhibited no apparent fear, such as coiling or striking behavior, whether he was being lifted from his sandbox, or being put back, or being stroked gently, or being transferred from one person to another.  He seemed to have a bright curiosity and a general amiability.  (Am I anthropomorphizing too much?)   His slightly shiny skin was absolutely dry and pleasant to the touch.

     I like to think about what George taught me.  I can think of several things, right off.

     That snakes are not all the Spawn Of Satan.

     That even strange and little creatures are beautiful, fascinating, and mysterious, because they have a real life of their own.  Their reality interlocks with our own -- but it is different.

     It helps if you give them names.   You assign to them the status of personhood in your own mind, and with a little luck, you start to care.  Who knows, maybe a little psychic link is established.

     Anyway, George, you were a fine snake, and a credit to your species.  Be fruitful and multiply.  Go with God.




  1. Snakes are amazing. I hear them all the time in our garden, they rustle thru the plants and it's rare for me to actually catch a glimpse. I am hoping that they continue to be faster than my boys, as I don't necessarily want any science projects in the house. In the garden is just fine, thank you.

    --It helps if you give them names. You assign to them the status of personhood in your own mind, and with a little luck, you start to care. Who knows, maybe a little psychic link is established.--

    I wonder if we knew more about the people in the rest of the world, we'd have more peace and less war. It's almost like we stripped "personhood" from entire cultures, so it's okay to bomb them.

    Wouldn't George need Ethel or Petunia or some pretty little gal to "be fruitful and multiply"??

  2. castiron said:
    Wouldn't George need Ethel or Petunia or some pretty little gal to "be fruitful and multiply"??

    Yeah, I was thinking about that when I wrote that last.

    Being a good Christian libertarian, I'd like to think that George was eventually set free. My teacher-friend Bob was a pretty good sort, and after a couple of seasons in the classroom, George probably got his, um, "walking papers".

    Speaking of little snakes, I know an old dairy farmer who just passed away. He was like a favorite uncle when I was growing up. I remember him laughing while he fished a little snake out of one of his cattle-watering tanks, tossing it into the heavy grass where it could make its escape and find its freedom. I have always loved that man for that gesture. From that day forward, I knew I could trust him to CARE.